Animals and Insects

Before Birds Could Fly, Dinosaurs Had To Learn To Hop

Before birds evolved the ability to fly, their ancestors jumped around. Even today, that's an efficient way to move.

Before Birds Could Fly, Dinosaurs Had To Learn To Hop
Diana Chin, Lentink Lab

Scientists think birds and their dinosaur ancestors might've first learned to fly by hopping around, and new research could explain why: It's all about moving the farthest by doing the least work.

Researchers studying bird behavior found these jumps with a little flapping are the best way to get from perch to perch, at least for distances of a few feet. Parrots that pushed against a branch with their feet used less energy than when they pushed against the air with their wings.

An illustration of a feathery dinosaur

In Case You Forgot, Dinosaurs Were Actually Feathery

Paleontologists have discovered more dinosaur feathers preserved in amber — the fluffy plumage might have been common.


Those energy needs could also be why we don't see evidence of more flying dinosaurs. They were probably too heavy to make flapping over long distances practical, but the short hops still would have been useful.

Researchers in this new study proposed that as flight evolved, early birds got smaller than their dinosaur precursors because lighter bodies are easier to lift.